EDINA, Minn. -- Playing in the featured threesome Thursday with Lorena Ochoa and Cristie Kerr didn't make the reigning U.S. Women's Amateur champion, Maria Jose Uribe (right)[#image: /photos/55ad70aeadd713143b421f33]|||Localknowledge_mariauribe|||
, nervous. Quite the opposite. She fed off their energy and shot an impressive four-under-par 69 in the first round of the U.S. Women's Open at Interlachen Country Club. That was three better than Kerr and four ahead of Ochoa.
Uribe, an 18-year-old from Columbia, is one of 27 amateurs in the field, and she isn't the only one on the leader board. Her UCLA teammate Sydnee Michaels also broke par in the first round, shooting a 71. Uribe has already made the cut in one LPGA major this year, tying for 58th in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April.
"If you saw me at my club on Saturday, you wouldn't think I was much of a golfer," says Uribe. But put her against the best women players in the world and watch her shine. Her coral "golf dress" with its ruffled hem suited her outgoing personality. Asked about her especially enthusiastic fist pump after a good shot, she said, "That's just me."
Uribe, who'll be a sophomore at UCLA in the fall, plans to finish college before joining the LPGA Tour. She says she wants to mature as a golfer. "Unless," she says, "I win the Open. Then I'll reconsider."
Uribe said she couldn't have had a better pairing than playing with Ochoa. "She talks to you on the golf course, and I like that," said Uribe.
Ochoa said she equally enjoyed the round with Uribe. "We're from a common culture, we both value family, speak the same language, have the same Catholic background," said Ochoa.
Uribe's 69 included six birdies and seven 3s and was highlighted by consecutive birdies on Nos. 9, 10 and 11.
When asked if the Open felt much different than a college tournament, she said, "Here I have a caddie; it's always nicer."
There will be many more rounds with a caddie in her future.